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Kapil Sibal threatens to sue OpIndia – Here is our response

Author: Nupur J Sharma
Publication: Opindia.com
Date: March 29, 2018
URL:      http://www.opindia.com/2018/03/kapil-sibal-threatens-to-sue-opindia-here-is-our-response/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

While answering questions raised by journalists and the BJP that were based on OpIndia story about Kapil Sibal and his wife acquiring a company named Grande Castello, senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal threatened to sue OpIndia for defamation. This, when OpIndia story has only asked a few questions to Sibal about the acquisition and valuation of the company. And this, when the Congress party claims to support journalists’ right to ask questions to powerful people.

In our story, we had questioned whether Kapil Sibal and his wife Promila Sibal bought a company named Grande Castello limited pretty cheap – possibly at the value of the paid-up capital of the company i.e. 1 lakh rupees – because the company had huge liabilities and the major asset it had – a piece of land in New Delhi municipal area – was devalued prior to Sibals acquiring the company.

It should be noted that companies being bought just at the paid-up capital value or less is not indicative of any scam. A loss-making airline Spicejet was sold at just 2 rupees by Maran brothers in 2015 to businessman Ajay Singh because it had huge debts and liabilities.

Grande Castello similarly had major liabilities and loans and thus the company being bought at paid-up capital or even less can be legally justified. We tried to reach out to Kapil Sibal to get clarification about it, but we did not get any response, and we published the story with the facts available in public domain as well as the questions we had sent to Mr Sibal.

It is indeed intriguing what is so defamatory in the whole process that Mr Sibal wants to sue OpIndia.

We still don’t know what price the company was acquired at by Mr Sibal. He maintained that it was legal acquisition but did not specify the amount paid during his interactions with journalists earlier today.

Now, there are two theories.

One is that the company was bought at nominal 1 lakh rupees, which was the paid-up capital of the company which had a negative net value at the time of acquisition. If this is true, then it would mean that Mr Sibal managed to get prime land, which was devalued by changing accounting system — and thus creating a negative net value for the holding company — right before Sibal took over.

The second theory came to light when at noon today I was mysteriously contacted by Mr Piyoosh Goyal. He claimed that the deal went through for Rs 50 crores. If true, it would again be intriguing as to why Kapil Sibal paid such a high amount for a company that has liabilities running in the same range with no apparent business except owning a piece of land in New Delhi areas valued less than the liabilities.

To that assertion, I, as Editor of OpIndia.com, said that I would be emailing a detailed questionnaire to Goyal, and if he can provide documentary evidence, his unedited response would be published.

The questions we asked were as follows :
Opindia.com Editor <opindia.com@gmail.com>         Thu. Mar 29. 2018 at 12:58 PM

To: piyoosh@worldswindow.cc

Hello Mr Piyoosh Goyal

You reached out to me over the phone and said that you would like to clarify your stand with regards to the story we ran about the dealings between you and Mr Kapil Sibal (Congress leader). As per our telephonic conversation, you asserted that the deal went through in Rs 50 sores and not 1 Lakh.

Following are the questions we would like to ask you in this regard. Please note that in all fairness, your answers will be published verbatim without edits from our side and we reserve the right to ask you follow up questions before we publish your responses if more information is required.

We also reserve the rights to highlight any information that is not supported by documentary evidence for being the same to our readers, but we promise not to edit your responses.

The questions follow:

1. For how long have you known Mr Kapil Sibal (Congress leader) and/or his family members and in what capacity?

2. Reports said you hosted the Sibals at least twice - a chartered plane to watch 2011 world cup match and a luxurious holiday in South Africa in 2011. These reports also say that the money for both these events was paid by Gupta brothers of South Africa. Your comments?

3. Have you been hosted by the Sibals too for any recreational events in a reciprocal manner? If yes can you provide some examples? if not, any particular reason for being generous with Sibals?

4. What is the status of the CBI case, which was registered in November 2013 against you and your entities for allegedly bribing SBI officials to disburse bans in World Windows favour?

5. Can you confirm that Grande Castello - earlier a wholly owned subsidiary of World Window where you are a substantial shareholder - is now owned by Mr Kapil Sibal (Congress leader) and his wife?

6. South African journalists allege that Grande Castello is a shell company that helped Gupta

Brothers launder money. How do you respond to these charges?

7. In the Financial Year 2014-15, the sales of the year for Grande Castello were Rs 34.86 lacs and an identical amount has become debtors or trade receivables. Can you explain how?

8. In the Financial Year 2013-14 when the company began its transactions to acquire the land, it had no business and managed to raise loans and book overdrafts of crores of rupees. Can you please provide details of :
a. lender
b. security offered
c. terms of the loan

9. When did Kapil Sibal express interest in acquiring Grande Castello?

10. Why was Kapil Sibal interested buying in Grande Castello?

11. Did Kapil Sibal have any business relationship with Grande Castello earlier?

12. What was the price at which the Sibals acquired Grande Castello? On phone, you said it was 50 crore rupees? Can you provide documentary evidence for the same, such as a share transfer agreement?

13. There were liabilities running in the range of Rs 50 crores in Grande Castello and a major asset - the land in New Delhi - which was revalued at 45 crores thus making the net worth of the company virtually negative. On what basis was the company valued at 50 crore rupees (or whichever value it was sold to Kapil Sibal) before Sibals acquired it?

14. Why was the land de-valued just a year before Kapil Sibal acquired it?

Please answer these questions at the earliest so we can review the details and proceed to ether publish or ask you follow up questions before publishing.

I will also request you if you can in turn request Mr Kapil Sibal to respond, as he appears a good friend of yours. Had he responded earlier, we would have carried this information already.


Nupur J Sharma
Opind acorn

As can be seen, the questions were sent to Mr Piyoosh Goyal at 12:58 PM. Till the time this story broke on mainstream media, we had not got a response from Mr Goyal. At about 8:00 PM, a good 8 hours later, I again got a call from Mr Goyal saying that he had already made his statement to Republic TV and hence didn’t wish to respond to our email.

And thus, we got no documentary evidence to support the Rs 50 crores claim.

Now, let’s assume Piyoosh Goyal’s claims of the deal going through at Rs 50 crores was authentic. The question then arises why would Sibal pay Rs. 50 crores to buy a company whose net worth was in the negative owing to a devalued land and 51 crores liability.

We have forwarded questions to confirm both theories. One to Mr Sibal and one to Mr Goyal. Sadly, we have got no response from either.

In fact, we asked questions about the acquisition of the company. Mr Sibal in his presser has mixed up and referred to the company being bought once, and switched to talking about buying the land in the next moment.

The reason we wanted to know about the amount paid as well as about him owning the company is because he had – rather strangely – denied that he owned the company in January this year, even though the documents suggested that he had bought the company in the financial year 2016-2017.

The following email exchanges between an investigative journalist from South Africa and Kapil Sibal (being reproduced here with due permission from the South African journalist) show that Kapi Sibal had denied owning the company in January 2018. During his press interaction today, he confirmed that he owned the company:
On Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 7:41 PM, Kapil Sibal <kapilsibal26@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Craig ,

I have never had any dealings financial or otherwise with the Guptas . I have met Mr Gupta in Delhi only once when my friend Piyush Goyal invited me to watch the cricket World Cup . We did not travel on the invitation of Mr Gupta nor am I aware of any charter by him . My wife , Akhil and I went on the invitation of Piyush . Even while watching the match we did not sit with Mr Gupta nor go to the ground with him .

Other than that I have never met or communicated with him either in India or South Africa .

My son is a professional . When he went to South Africa I had nothing to do with that trip . About Grande Castello , you don't seem to have your facts right .

Sent from my iPad

On 09-Jan-2018, at 4:16 PM, Craig McKune <craigm@amabhungane.org> wrote:

Dear Mr Sibal,

I just filled out the contact form on your website http://www.kapilsibal.in/. I asked if you could please respond by Friday as we are publishing at the end of this week.

I outlined there what we intend to include in our article about the Guptas, Goyal, Worlds Window and money laundering. In 2011, you held two ministerial portfolios: human resources and communication/IT.

In April 2011, the Guptas arranged chartered flights between Mumbai and Delhi for the Gupta, Goyal and Sibal families, including you, your wife and your son Akhil.

In December 2011, the Guptas and Goyal arranged Christmas New Year travel details for Cape Town for Akhil and his wife Shivani. They stayed at a luxury hotel at the Waterfront here, and the Gupta company Sahara paid for this.

In 2017, you became a director of Worlds Window subsidiary Grande Castello.

I just want to emphasise that it will be important for you to outline the context of your family relationship with the Goyal and the Guptas, as the article will detail how they were involved in channeling kickbacks and many other suspicious transactions bearing the hallmarks of money laundering.


Craig McKune
amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
Skype: craigpatrik
Twitter: @CraigMcKune

Full details of Sibal’s exchanges with the South African journalists can be read here.

Our questions were based on this suspicious and intriguing behaviour by Kapil Sibal while responding to questions by the South African investigative journalists.

We made no allegations and rather asked questions. What was extremely intriguing is the way land was de-valued a year before Kapil Sibal bought Grande Castello, making the net worth of the company virtually negative. This is why we argued that Kapil Sibal could have paid any non-zero number to acquire the company (and we grant that it would still have been a legal transaction).

Our story was based on the research of a remarkable group of South African journalists and we stand by our story.

If Mr Sibal thinks we should be sued for asking him questions, there isn’t much we can say to that, can we?
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